My Self Publishing Experience Thus Far
I wrote myself a royalty check last week. It is the first time I have ever done so. With the creation of Cobble Stones, and Hold on to Your Horses finally being profitable, I realized that it is time for the publishing company I run to be paying me as a writer. So I did the spread sheet, calculated the numbers for last quarter, then wrote the check and signed it. Right afterward, I flipped it over and signed the back so I can deposit it. Before I tell you how much money, let me tell you a couple more things.
Hold on to Your Horses took me a month to write. Granted, I probably only worked for about 10 hours of that month, but during that month I wrote little else. Finding an artist to work with used up at least 30 work hours. Back and forth with the artist took 40 work hours over three months. Layout and design took at least 40 hours, this includes the hours I spent curled into a ball crying because I was sure that I’d completely ruined the project and would never be able to make it work right. I had to wait three months to get the books. Then I took the books with me to every convention I attended. I talked about them to customers over dealer’s room tables. I did that over and over again for four years. I talked about Hold Horses on the internet. I did interviews on local television, radio, podcast, and the internet. Howard blogged about the book to all his readers. The project finally broke even financially last year. It has now paid my artist a fair rate and paid for printing costs. My royalty check for this month, the first money I’ve ever made on the project, was $15.
Cobble Stones is newer. It took me 20-30 hours to edit, layout, and create. I paid someone to help me put it into kindle and ePub formats. I spent at least 30 hours making the cover through trial and lots of error. I don’t know how many hours went into the original essays. I haven’t spent much time marketing it yet. The release got swamped by the Sharp End of the Stick pre-order. It was more a kick-this-thing-out-the-door-to-fend-for-i
I give all these numbers because people considering self-publishing should know. It eats a lot of time and usually does not pay a lot of money. I’m not sorry I did the projects. I continue to hope that they will earn more in the future, but they have not even begun to pay me back for the financial value of my time. Emotionally both projects are paid in full and then some. Except, perhaps, in the moment when I hold a $24 check and think “that’s it?”
The Schlock books are also self-published. They support our family as well as allow us to hire a colorist and an occasional shipping assistant. Neither Howard nor I has been able to leverage the fervent Schlock audience into sales for my books. The works are too different. My writing has to find its own audience, and I’m working on that slowly. I’m treating this first $24 check as a promise to myself. It is a starting point from whence I can grow. It certainly beats the zero dollars I was getting before. Self publishing is a long game, I need to be willing to keep working at it for years to come.
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